Greenpeace activists and youth climate action group, the Solar Generation, stage a mobile exhibition inside the Asian Development Bank's Annual Meeting. Greenpeace is calling on the Bank to honour the Kyoto Protocol, stop investing in coal and start investing in renewable energy to reduce CO2 emissions in Asia, the continent that will suffer most from the effects of climate change.
The ADB is supposed to help not harm. Its mission is to fight
poverty. It can (and does) wield great influence over energy
technology choices - its funding acts as a catalyst, attracting
additional private funding and its policies carry serious weight
with member countries. They are ideally placed to fund an energy
revolution, but so far ADB has largely favoured coal and other
dirty technologies, while only putting a token effort into the
renewable energy projects.
The 40th annual meeting of the ADB was held in Kyoto, Japan --
birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding
international treaty that obligates a reduction of greenhouse gases
globally. This year marks the tenth year since the Protocol was
passed, and it wasn't a wild notion to think the ADB's conference
would attempt to measure up to the legacy of Kyoto.
We arrived in Kyoto with very specific demands for the ADB to
phase out coal, dramatically scale up its renewable energy and
energy efficiency initiatives and guarantee that the US$1 billion
annual clean energy pipeline that it put together would remain free
of coal. And certainly we had fun getting our message across.
Kimonos and 'love shirts'
After our request for space to hold an exhibition of climate
impacts was turned down, we decided to take the exhibition on the
road using the widest T-shirts ever designed, which gave ADB
officials a serious dilemma since it wasn't exactly a banner
protest and neither was it an exhibit. We dubbed the wide berth
T-shirts, 'love shirts' for their partnership-creating
Generation students also surprised the meeting when, at a big
dinner banquet hosted by the ADB president, they turned up as six
mysterious kimono girls in complete costume and with complete
makeup. They only revealed their identity when they stopped in
front of ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda and elegantly opened their
Japanese fans, which together read "Clean Energy Now! ADB Quit
Coal!" They stayed for the whole evening, charming and then
disarming the Bank's Governors who fell over themselves for the
photo op. The girls had taken 5 hours to get ready and couldn't
drink during the performance because of the difficulty of getting
out of the costumes. The response they received proved that it was
well worth it though as they engaged the Bank's highest officials
in debates about climate change and the clean energy solutions that
the Bank could enable.
Kimonos for the climate.
click to enlarge)
Generation students had also created beautiful bookmarks using
Japan's national flower, the cherry blossom, to symbolise the
impacts of climate change as the blossom was a lot earlier this
year due to the warmer winter. The bookmarks carried Solar
Generation's demands to the ADB and the students handed them out to
Bank delegates with helpful advice that they could read the
messaging when the meeting got boring.
It's amazing to see the difference we can make inside such an
institution as the ADB. Our decision to combine a series of highly
visual direct communication activities with the expert policy
dialogue really had an impact on the decision makers at the
Several steps backwards
The truth is, the ADB had actually put together a series of
clean energy initiatives that held a lot of promise in response to
the pressure we had sustained. We made sure the ADB knew that we
welcomed the new measures and it seemed like our creative
enforcement of our demands in the opening days of the meeting were
On the penultimate day of the ADB's meeting, however, things
began to fall apart. The Bank's Board Chair Koji Omi, also Japan's
Finance Minister, was pushing nuclear energy as a solution to
climate change as well as disgracefully dissing the Kyoto Protocol
- the only show in town when it comes to giving us a sustainable
How unfortunate. The clean energy initiatives and funding
commitments the ADB unveiled in this meeting are clear steps
forward. But continued support for coal and tolerance for nuclear,
however, has taken the ADB five steps backward. The only pathway to
Asia's sustainable future is signposted 'renewable energy and
energy efficiency' and we call on the ADB to lead Asia down that
Tell the ADB to stop funding climate change and start funding the solution, renewable energy.
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